What is Blockchain

What is Blockchain

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A Blockchain is a growing list of records, called blocks, that are linked together using cryptography. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp, and transaction data (generally represented as a Merkle tree). The timestamp proves that the transaction data existed when the block was published in order to get into its hash.

As blocks each contain information about the block previous to it, they form a chain, with each additional block reinforcing the ones before it. Therefore, blockchains are resistant to modification of their data because once recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without altering all subsequent blocks.
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Blockchains are typically managed by a peer-to-peer network for use as a publicly distributed ledger, where nodes collectively adhere to a protocol to communicate and validate new blocks. Although blockchain records are not unalterable as forks are possible, blockchains may be considered secure by design and exemplify a distributed computing system with high Byzantine fault tolerance.

The blockchain was invented by a person (or group of people) using the name Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008 to serve as the public transaction ledger of the cryptocurrency bitcoin. The identity of Satoshi Nakamoto remains unknown to date. The invention of the blockchain for bitcoin made it the first digital currency to solve the double-spending problem without the need of a trusted authority or central server.

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The bitcoin design has inspired other applications and blockchains that are readable by the public and are widely used by cryptocurrencies. The blockchain is considered a type of payment rail. Private blockchains have been proposed for business use but Computerworld called the marketing of such privatized blockchains without a proper security model "snake oil". However, others have argued that permissioned blockchains, if carefully designed, may be more decentralized and therefore more secure in practice than permission-less ones.

Decentralization

By storing data across its peer-to-peer network, the blockchain eliminates a number of risks that come with data being held centrally. The decentralized blockchain may use ad hoc message passing and distributed networking. One risk of a lack of a decentralization is a so-called "51% attack" where a central entity can gain control of more than half of a network and can manipulate that specific blockchain record at-will, allowing double-spending.

Peer-to-peer blockchain networks lack centralized points of vulnerability that computer crackers can exploit; likewise, it has no central point of failure. Blockchain security methods include the use of public-key cryptography. A public key (a long, random-looking string of numbers) is an address on the blockchain. Value tokens sent across the network are recorded as belonging to that address.

A private key is like a password that gives its owner access to their digital assets or the means to otherwise interact with the various capabilities that blockchains now support. Data stored on the blockchain is generally considered incorruptible.

Every node in a decentralized system has a copy of the blockchain. Data quality is maintained by massive database replication and computational trust. No centralized "official" copy exists and no user is "trusted" more than any other. Transactions are broadcast to the network using software. Messages are delivered on a best-effort basis.

Mining nodes validate transactions, add them to the block they are building, and then broadcast the completed block to other nodes. Blockchains use various time-stamping schemes, such as proof-of-work, to serialize changes. Alternative consensus methods include proof-of-stake. Growth of a decentralized blockchain is accompanied by the risk of centralization because the computer resources required to process larger amounts of data become more expensive.


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